What Is a Bidet—and Is It Healthier Than Wiping?

It turns out that bidets could benefit people, especially ones with certain conditions.

Are bidets finally catching on in the United States? Up until recently, this bathroom appliance that sprays water on your genitals and anus after you pee or poop has long been popular in Europe and Asia. In some cultures, people use a bidet after every toilet visit.

But lately, more Americans have been singing the bidet's praises. Plus. it certainly seems more hygienic than just wiping with toilet paper. This got us thinking: Can using a bidet benefit your health?

The short answer, according to the experts we spoke to: Bidets aren't necessarily helpful or harmful for the average person, but they can be a good idea for those with specific conditions.

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For example, they could be helpful for people who have a physical disability. "Normally people wipe, [but for] people who are bed-bound or handicapped, a bidet might be a nice thing," Rabia De Latour, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, tells Health. People who have sores need to be cleaned particularly well, she says.

As a general rule, as long as there's "no break in the skin, it's not dangerous. You do feel cleaner," Dr. De Latour says.

Saleem Chowdhry, MD, a physician in the department of gastroenterology and hepatology at Cleveland Clinic, says bidets can be useful for people who suffer from hemorrhoids.

"Some studies have shown that use of [a] bidet can reduce anal resting pressure and may provide symptomatic relief in patients who have hemorrhoids," Dr. Chowdhry tells Health.

"There's no way we can say the water would remove bacteria, but it does remove solid matter," Dr. De Latour says.

One warning: If have ulcerated skin on or around the genitals or anus, just keep the water pressure of the bidet low, advises Dr. De Latour, to avoid aggravating the tears in the skin.

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Let's say you don't want to change your bathroom hygiene habits and are okay sticking to regular old wiping. Cleaning up after you pee is pretty simple, but when you clean your anus after pooping, you need to make sure that you're wiping the right way. And yes, there is most definitely a right way and a wrong way.

The right way: "front to back 100 percent, without a shadow of a doubt," Dr. De Latour says. The reason? "Stool comes out of your anus. There's no issue with bacteria going inside [it]."

But if you wipe back to front, bacteria from your butt can reach your urethra, and "that's how people get UTIs." So you should make sure you don't drag bacteria from your anus to your urethra by wiping from back to front.

While you might not have associated UTIs with the way you're wiping, you can now add this little tip to the list of ways you can prevent an infection down there.

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